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A Tarahumara woman wears a bright, traditional outfit in Chihuahua, Mexico. Photo: Shutterstock

A group of indigenous long-distance runners in Mexico rarely get sick

Deep in the Copper Mountains of Mexico is the key to all our health problems. The world is wrought with disease and decreasing life expectancy, the unfortunate result of our dependence on consumerism and easy living. But we weren’t always that way. Humans were built to exercise, to move, to be strong and live in the wild. The Tarahumara, also known as the Raramuri of Chihuahua, Mexico, are outstanding examples of how we can live differently. 

Tarahumara people. Photo: Shutterstock

The Tarahumara are famous for their ability to run very long distances, up to 350km. The very name Raramuri translates to runners on foot. They run with little to no footwear, which aids them in their endurance feats. Should they wear shoes, their usual go-to are huaraches, flat sandals made from goat leather. This footwear allows them to run in a springy way which mimics running barefoot and forces them to have good form and better posture. Researchers have found that they run better than people who wear normal running shoes. Remarkably, these flat sandals can handle the tough and rocky terrain. 

Endurance is a key component of their culture, as they believe that it is their sacred duty to keep the world spinning on its axis by running. Every year, their main festival, the Rarajipari, is a ceremonial ball game that requires incredible amounts of stamina. The men’s race consists of kicking or hitting a hand-carved wooden ball with a long stick in a relay fashion. The ball is carried for several kilometres and in teams.

The women’s race is similar except with a hoop. Young people, middle-aged, children, and even some elders in their 90s participate. There is no pomp and ceremony with grand prizes and finish lines, only a focus on pleasing their creator and having fun within the community. 

Tarahumara child running. Photo: Shutterstock

Scientists have found that the Tarahumara diet is one of the best in the world, as the group is considered a “cold spot” for diseases. Health issues such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, depression, and anxiety have not made their way to this community for several reasons. They practice subsistence farming, and their diet includes some of the best anti-inflammatory, high-protein, and cancer-fighting vitamins and minerals. Unprocessed corn, beans, squash, herbs, and many other vegetables fuel their long runs. Ox, chicken, and goat meat are rare treats. The Tarahumara debunk the popular myth that runners can’t be vegetarians. 

The Tarahumara’s lifestyle has attracted people from far and wide and inspired them to live more minimally. They remind us that it is possible to go far with just a little. 

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About the Author

Kristine De Abreu

Kristine De Abreu

Kristine De Abreu is a writer (and occasional photographer) based in sunny Trinidad and Tobago.

Since graduating from the University of Leicester with a BA in English and History, she has pursued a full-time writing career, exploring multiple niches before settling on travel and exploration. While studying for an additional diploma in travel journalism with the British College of Journalism, she began writing for ExWeb.

Currently, she works at a travel magazine in Trinidad as an editorial assistant and is also ExWeb's Weird Wonder Woman, reporting on the world's natural oddities as well as general stories from the world of exploration.

Although she isn't a climber (yet!), she hikes in the bush, has been known to make friends with iguanas and quote the Lord of the Rings trilogy from start to finish.

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William E. Rhys Davies
7 months ago

Take a look at John Annerino’s book? John a friend of mine, spent
ten years researching these people.

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